Adrian Kulesza

As the holidays approach, Dwight Hall is partnering with the Office of Graduate Student Development and Diversity as well as the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project to organize a toy drive for New Haven children and families with incarcerated parents.

The toy drive is one of the first joint initiatives between Dwight Hall and graduate students. Toys and funds raised in the drive will support children and families with incarcerated parents from New Haven’s West Rock neighborhood housing projects, according to the initiative’s Facebook page. Dwight Hall’s Assistant Director for Innovation and Leadership Development Marquita Taylor said that she sees collaborations like this as the product of years of work to engage all of the Yale community in service projects.

“Over the last several years, Dwight Hall at Yale has been actively committed to engaging graduate and professional students interested in service in New Haven,” said Taylor. “We look forward to opportunities across campus to engage, grow and innovate alongside centers with similar interests, initiatives and missions.”

The Graduate and Professional Student Senate currently has seven standing committees, including two that are tasked with planning community service initiatives and advocacy, according to its website. As an “overarching student government,” the senate aims to connect all of the graduate and professional schools with the larger Yale community.

Past senate service initiatives included “Spring into Service,” an event that paired graduate and professional students with local nonprofits this April to increase community connection and involvement. The service day only involved the graduate students. But this season’s toy drive aims to involve all Yalies.

Serena Ly ’20, Dwight Hall student co-coordinator, said she hopes that the budding collaboration between undergraduates’ and graduate and professional students’ service initiatives will help the University make a greater impact within the community.

“This year, we’re hoping to build relationships with graduate schools to think about ways that undergraduates and graduate students can partner to better recognize the needs of our community partners, and, upon carefully contextualizing issues faced in the community, craft approaches to tackle these issues,” Ly said.

Other holiday events sponsored by the Hall include a Dec. 8 undergraduate service project showcase and the fourth annual winter clothing giveaway on Dec. 9. Both events are open to the entire Yale community, according to Dwight Hall’s website, but focus mostly on the undergraduates’ service initiatives.

But Ly said that in the near future, graduate students may become more involved in Dwight Hall’s work.

“I feel that more recently, although Dwight Hall has been an incubator for undergraduate student initiatives, we have not been able to engage grad students in as meaningful of ways,” Ly said. “Our Outreach Team in the Student Executive Committee is developing a project to connect grad students with student groups and leaders as mentors and partners.”

Dwight Hall will host the toy drive and a holiday wrapping party on Friday from 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Audrey Steinkamp |